Jean-Paul Verret, chairman of Toyota France, has worked for the company in various senior positions for 20 years. His aim is to grow Toyota's share of the French market to 5 percent. Its current level is less than 1 percent. He was interviewed in Paris by Automotive News Europe staff reporter Stephane Farhi
What are your sales targets for Toyota France?
We will sell 30,000 vehicles (passenger cars and commercial vans) this year, up from 22,500 in 1997. But it's still not a significant number for a carmaker such as Toyota. It does not reflect our global position in the industry.
We will not be a significant player until we sell 50,000 units - and we will not be a big player until we reach 100,000. We plan to raise sales by 10,000 every year to 2005 to achieve 100,000 units.
What will the sales split be across the Toyota range this year?
We will sell 7,000 Corollas, 6,500 Avensis and 3,500 Starlets. Our speciality is still sport-utilities, and we should sell 4,700 Landcruisers and 3,500 RAV4s. The Picnic has been a surprise package and we expect 4,000 sales.
What are your expectations for the Yaris?
We are targeting at least 10,000 units in 1999. We hope we'll do better. The Yaris is an opportunity for Toyota to gain a new image in France: younger, more universal, more feminine. At the moment we are seen as a 4x4 off-road specialist and sedan maker.
How will Yaris sales develop?
Yaris production will reach 150,000 units a year at our Valenciennes plant. Roughly 30 percent of output, or 40,000-45,000, should eventually be sold in France. That means we will have to sell about 60,000 of our other models to reach our 2005 target.
Do you have the dealer network to support such growth?
We have 194 dealers now. We will not have a general cancellation (of contracts). We will keep roughly the same number of dealers, but we want to have 300 outlets eventually. We will focus on some areas, such as northern France and Brittany, where we have been a little weak up to now.
We want each of our dealers to sell an average of 400 new cars per year. At the moment the figure is 120. So dealers will need to add one or two salesmen.
On our side, communication with the dealers must improve. Advertising must also adapt to this new situation.
How are you doing with Lexus?
Lexus has no image in France. We only have 12 dealers, and we will sell 150 to 200 cars this year. But we are talking with Toyota Motor Europe about how to develop the brand.